President Donald Trump's obsession with building a U.S./Mexico border wall is as intense in 2020 as it was when he first ran for president in 2016, and he is willing to divert funds from the U.S. Defense Department in order to get it done. But on Tuesday, March 3, a coalition of 19 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging Trump's plan to divert funds allocated by Congress for state National Guard units to his southern border wall project.
Law & Crime reporter Jerry Lambe notes that in February, the Trump Administration notified Congress that it planned to divert more than $3.8 million from the Defense Department's budget to "higher priority items" that it considers "necessary in the national interest" — including 500 miles of new barriers on the U.S./Mexico border that promote "counter drug activities."
In their lawsuit, the 19 state attorneys general complain, "For the second consecutive year, the Trump Administration has acted contrary to the will of Congress by redirecting billions of dollars appropriated by Congress for Department of Defense ('DOD') projects toward building a wall on the United States/Mexico border. This includes the diversion of funds for military projects in the plaintiff states and vital equipment for the states' respective National Guards. Defendants must be enjoined from carrying out President Trump's unconstitutional and unlawful scheme."
Not surprisingly, none of the state attorneys general in the lawsuit represent red states. All 19 of them represent either blue states or swing states, including California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada, Illinois, Maine, Virginia, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Most of the states in the lawsuit favored Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016's presidential election, although Michigan and Wisconsin went to Trump.
One of the Democratic state attorneys general in the lawsuit is New York's Letitia James, a vehement Trump critic who was elected in the 2018 midterms. In a March 3 press release, James asserted, "President Trump is risking the safety of every American by diverting taxpayer dollars from our military to fund the same xenophobic campaign promises he's made for the last four years. The courts have already once rejected the president's unlawful attempt to shift funds to his hateful pet project; so, as long as this administration continues down the path of illegally subsidizing an ill-advised border wall, we will not hesitate to take action. We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight it using every tool at our disposal."
In a separate press release announcing the lawsuit, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (also a Democrat) was equally critical of Trump.
"Ignoring the rule of law comes easy to President Trump — even after our courts have slapped him down," Becerra stressed. "This year's victim of his taxpayer money grab is the National Guard, which would lose critical funds to secure essential equipment for our troops. Congress has repeatedly and explicitly rejected taxpayer funding for a wasteful Trump wall along the border. We're going to court — once again — to remind Donald Trump that even the president is not above the law."